Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Walking Every Day / Portal II

As this day approached, I was wondering if I would post on my blog. This morning I wrote an email to Richard's sister and realized that this is what I want to post on the third anniversary of Richard's death:

Dear Dorothy,

Thinking of you today. Grateful that you and Pat and Chaplain Virginia Jackson were with Richard on this day three years ago. I told Richard that Chaplain Jackson would be like Whoopi Goldberg in "Ghost," and that she would BE me and for him to know that I was there with him when the ventilator was turned off, whenever that would be. I didn't understand that it would be only a week later.

Have you heard of St. Teresa of Avila? It is said that when she died, a white dove lifted into flight from her heart. Something like what you described when Richard died.

Richard had the same birthday as Mahatma Gandhi. Richard almost died on Good Friday in 2008, when the moon was full. It was very close to that day in March that your brother, Michael, died. Richard wrote to me in 2005 that he was devastated by Michael's death.

It was Easter morning in 2008 that something told me to call the VA hospital. That was the day the nurse thought I was a family member and told me that as Richard was taken on a gurney to the ICU on Good Friday because he was having trouble breathing, she asked him something and he gave her the thumbs up sign to let her know that he was okay.

On the first day I was with Richard in the MICU, he gave me the thumbs up sign when I asked if he would like me to read the note I had written to him, which had just arrived. That was the only time he did that. It took him a great effort to do that. He did it very slowly, with his left hand. I remember him crying only once in all the time I knew him, and that was when I talked about the nearness of his death and that he had indicated to the doctors that he was ready.

Three days later, about an hour before I told him I loved him and had to say goodbye, I remember that there was a moment where the secretions around the tube in his throat made it hard for him to breathe and it set off a warning that alerted the nurses to come to his aid. After they cleared the secretions, he repeatedly lifted his head and banged it against his pillow and then lay still, looking forsaken.

I remember how hard it was to leave him, and that the nurse, Ginger, said, "He will miss you."

I remember another nurse coming up to me and talking with me after I left his room and letting me know that she understood how much I loved him and how hard it was to say goodbye.

I remember Chaplain Jackson saying, "Have you let go of Richard?"

I also remember noticing that he had scratched his right wrist until it bled, something like one of the wounds on Jesus' wrist. I remember he wrote to me in 2005 that he had taken some walks with Jesus. He also wrote about Zen. He asked about Bob Dylan, too.

Richard died on Passover, when the moon was again full. Passover is the day that the Hebrews were freed from slavery in Egypt. It is a day of freedom from slavery.

Richard's first word as a child was "Light."

Strangely, April 20 is the day Adolf Hitler was born. Adolf Hitler was a newborn baby once.

And then there is that whole thing with Orril being in a room a few doors away in the MICU from Richard's room and that at the moment of Richard's death, I was watching "Dream with the Fishes," where Orril plays himself in the part of a priest who performs a marriage ceremony in a hospital for a dying man who was much like Richard, and his girlfriend, an artist. And that at the moment Richard died, the choir in Orril's room began to sing.

And that Orril died a week later.

And Richard died on the day that celebrates marijuana, as Richard did!

I don't know what to make of all that, except that Richard was a complex person who knew both great joy and deep suffering in his short life. He brought joy and suffering into my life, but all that remains of him for me is Love and your visions of him healthy and strong with that light in his eyes that will never die.

in the past few weeks I had a dream that I was standing up and hugging Richard, who was also standing up. I don't know where we were, but we were outside somewhere in a city in the sunlight. My focus was on how warm and strong Richard felt and how happy I felt to be with him again and feel his arms around me. He wasn't young, but he wasn't old either. It was more like he was the age he was when he died but very healthy. After our embrace, Richard quietly and lovingly said, "Amanda, I can't do this anymore." It was kind of like the end of "Ghost," where Patrick Swayze is about to head off into the Light. It was clear that Richard loved me and knew I loved him and that he had to go on ahead of me. I let him know that I understood that he had to go. It was a peaceful dream. Very simple and clear.

This past week I went to the doctor because I have been having a hard time doing all the extra hours expected of me at my job. They gave me a note limiting my hours to 32. It also turns out that there is something wrong with my kidneys that is not serious right now but could be if it keeps going in that direction. They want me to get a kidney ultrasound and to see a kidney specialist. My gut feeling is that whatever this is, is something that can be reversed. Given that I have no risk factors for kidney disease, this is pretty weird. Except for feeling tired, I feel better than I ever have. The other problem is that my cholesterol values are not good and haven't been for a long time despite the fact that I eat well and live well. These are early warning signs. After all, I am almost 62 years old. As your mother said when she was 40, "I'm no spring chicken."

You mentioned in your phone message from the Triage Trail that you are committed to walking every day. I'm committed to that, too, beginning a few days ago, after going to the doctor. There is a saying that goes, "I have two doctors. My right foot and my left foot." Walking is the key to health. Let's keep walking every day in memory of Richard. He will walk with us always.

Love from your long-time friend and almost sister-in-law,

P.S. Attached is a painting I did a few weeks ago, along with a little sculpture I bought called "Portal II." The artist is named Mashiko, and she has a gallery in New York City, the gallery that carries the work of Suze Rotolo, Bob Dylan's girlfriend on the cover of the "Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" album. I sent her a copy of my book of art and poetry inspired by Richard, and she has it sitting on a grand piano in her gallery for visitors to see.


Dale said...


The Solitary Walker said...

That was so moving, and so beautifully written, am.

Have you tried less full-fat cheese and eggs to help your cholesterol levels? It worked for me.

bev said...

So much of this post is all too familiar to me. As SW has comment, it is so moving and beautifully written. I hope that the kidney issue can be resolved. Working less hours and doing more walking seems like an important strategy in maintaining good health. Take care and be well. bev